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Jailed Iranian Human Rights Defender Ends Hunger Strike As Health Deteriorates


Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Jailed Iranian human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh has ended her hunger strike due to deteriorating health, her husband Reza Khandan said on social media on September 26.

Sotoudeh had been on a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison since August 11 to protest the risk that political prisoners in Iran face amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On September 19, she was taken to hospital for a serious heart condition. But four days later, she was taken back to Evin prison, triggering disbelief from UN independent experts among others.

“It is unfathomable that the Iranian authorities would return Ms. Sotoudeh to prison where she is at heightened risk to COVID-19, as well as with her serious heart condition,” the experts said.

“We urge the authorities to immediately reverse this decision, accept her requests to recuperate at home before undergoing a heart procedure, and allow her to freely choose her own medical treatment,” they added in a statement.

The experts echoed Sotoudeh’s call for the Iranian authorities to grant temporary release to human rights defenders, lawyers, dual and foreign nationals, prisoners of conscience, political prisoners, and all other individuals detained without sufficient legal basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic in Iran has infected nearly 440,000 and killed some 25,200, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Sotoudeh, cowinner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, has been surviving on water, tea, sugar, and salt, amid concerns over her health, her husband has said.

Sotoudeh was arrested at her home in Tehran in June 2018.

She was sentenced to a total of 38 1/2 years in prison and 148 lashes over her defense of political prisoners, including women protesting the compulsory hijab law.

She must serve 12 years of her sentence to become eligible for parole.

The widely respected lawyer was also jailed from 2010 to 2013 over her defense of sensitive political cases. In 2015, she protested for several weeks to be allowed to continue practicing law.

Despite her imprisonment, Sotoudeh has remained outspoken. She also went on a hunger strike in March to protest prison conditions.

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